Why Companies Shouldn’t Require Intranet Project References From Their Industry

IntranetCustomers who are interested in Linchpin, our Confluence-based intranet suite, always ask us for reference projects from their specific industry. A customer contact, let’s say from a health and beauty retailer, wants to know about other health and beauty retailers who have successfully implemented a Linchpin intranet.

It sounds like a sensible request, on the surface:

They are in the same industry as we are, therefore they will function and work in the same way as we do. When a project was successfully implemented in their company, our chances of a successful project are therefore good.

On a second glance, however, this request is not particularly helpful or effective, for three reasons:

Every company is different

Of course. This statement may seem trivial, but in reality it is extremely important.  It is common for companies in the same industries to organize themselves fundamentally differently. If we use our original example: While the conservatively managed Rossmann has gone under with flags flying, dm has successfully navigated an increasingly complex market by decentralizing. Toyota is organized very differently to VW, and Apple is completely different to Microsoft, and again to Samsung.

What works for one organization, may not function long or well in another, and can be dangerous when it is simply adopted without adaptation. Although, this is not a good argument to undermine the wish for industry-specific references.

Intranet requirements are generic

When I read the list of requirements of an intranet tender, they have a lot in common, regardless of the company’s industry. We receive long feature checklists, which we should fill out and comment on, but the requested functions are very generic. (That I am at war with such checklists is another story … )

Basically, companies all share the same goals. They want to distribute company news in the intranet for more effective top-down communication. They want personalization to improve efficiency. They want public and private areas, in which teams and departments can collaborate easily and effectively on their content. They want efficient asynchronous and real-time communication within teams and in the company. They want to get rid of internal email overload.

By their requirements, there are few differences between a global healthcare product provider, a large shipping company (Meyer Werft), and a tourism giant – just three of our successful intranet customers.

Please go ahead, write down your intranet requirements, and let me know. We can show you similar lists from companies in all industries. I’m positive you will quickly realize that your requirements differ from perhaps only foreign organizations, and even these differences are minor.

Cruise ships are not built with an intranet

An intranet is not an industry-specific tool that is required to complete projects. Companies do not develop medical appliances, build cruise ships, or provide tourism services with an intranet. For these projects, there are very specific employee skills, systems and tools within each department of an organization.

An intranet is not a department-specific tool, such as CAD software used in mechanical engineering; it exists on a level apart from products and services.

A modern intranet is all about collaboration within teams and lean communication. It should enable employees to work on all manner of projects – from standardized to the highly complex and specific – and provide a toolbox where a team in any situation can find appropriate collaboration methods and suitable tools, and use them correctly and purposefully. This is what an intranet is and should be.

A good intranet helps companies implement projects, such as mentioned above, better, more effectively and more efficiently, by promoting digital documentation, collaboration and personal responsibility. All organizations in all industries want and need this so they can be successful, future-ready and grow in their complex markets.

To cut a long story short: Yes, it is exciting and absolutely useful to see a few real implementations from other customers when you are evaluating specific intranet software. We offer you the opportunity to connect with our customers directly. However, please don’t waste your time looking for specific industry references, and do not make the lack of them an exclusion criterion.

Above all, I recommend that your intranet evaluation team work directly with the software, which they believe will help their employees and company the most.  I recently wrote about this in another blog post – in which my ‘beloved’ checklists feature …

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Further information

Linchpin: Social Intranet with Confluence
The Intranet Compass to compare intranet solutions
Some of our customers and intranet reference projects
Expert-written articles about intranets on our blog

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